WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden dropped in on Washington’s first Costco Thursday. He was greeted by Costco’s chief executive officer, Craig Jelinek, and co-founder Jim Sinegal, both of whom earlier attended a grand opening ceremony for the store.
The vice president flashed his Costco card as he walked through the doors to loud cheers. Employee Ivey Stewart handled a cart for Biden, who stopped frequently for hugs and photos.
“In all honesty, I didn’t have my own card, Jill wouldn’t let me have one,” he said. “I went to get my wife’s card, and she said, ‘No, No, get your own card.’ “
At the grand opening, District of Columbia officials spoke of creating jobs and bringing business to an economically depressed neighborhood. Costco executives said the 154,000-square-foot store is the biggest on the East Coast.
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Issaquah-based Costco is the Disneyland of warehouse shopping. And like Disney, Costco has an undeniable allure, the promise of adventure, whimsy and great deals just around the corner.
“I’m a piece of Costco woodwork,” said Karen Williams, a Washington resident and longtime Costco fan. “I go from store to store, wherever I am, just to see what they have, what’s new, what their exclusives are. My favorite store is in Wilmington, Del., because there’s no tax. But this, this is much closer to home.”
Overwhelmingly, the fans who attended the D.C. store opening on Thursday came without shopping lists.
Biden’s cart held, among other things, flowers, children’s books, fire logs, a 32-inch Panasonic TV and a large apple pie. The books, he said, were for a Delaware charity that his wife, Jill, had started. He said he picked titles based on “things I know my grandkids like.”
Biden did a loop of nearly the entire store, including bakery and frozen foods.
He spent some time looking at watches, including one that cost $1,200, and he put in a call to his daughter, Ashley, saying he needed to “get some guidance.” But it’s unknown whether he actually purchased a watch.
Biden also ate several Costco food samples and appeared to enjoy them. But he turned down employees who tried to lure him to the tire department.
“Hey man, I don’t need tires,” he said. “I don’t drive anymore.”
The vice president called on Congress to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, saying that “consumer confidence is growing, the last thing we need to do is dash that.”
He said that he’d talked to people around the store and that “all the people you meet and see . . . don’t need to see their taxes go up.”
Asked about whether he was optimistic about “fiscal cliff” negotiations, Biden said, “I am.”
Before leaving, he placed a call on Stewart’s phone. The conversation couldn’t be heard, but Stewart broke into tears and got a hug from Biden.
A White House official says the Bidens have been Costco members in the past. They reactivated their memberships Wednesday, paying a $55 membership fee and receiving new cards.
Sinegal, a longtime Democratic donor, spoke at the Democratic National Convention, defending President Obama’s economic record. He called Biden’s visit “fantastic” and said the company was flattered, “as you can see he draws quite a bit of attention.”
Washington Post staff writer Maggie Fazeli Fard contributed to this report.